Sunday, December 30, 2018

A moment in time by Marshall Byers

There is something calming and peaceful watching it rain laying on my bunk looking out the window. Little squiggling rivers run down slick smooth thick glass, rain intermittently hits the window making light tapping sounds. I'm cozy warm, safe and feeling reflective.

The sidewalks, the wet rainy streets, the shhhh of car tires on the wet street. People hunched over hurrying to and fro, coats buttoned up, hands buried deep in there pockets. Walking beside the Sky River, swift current lapping over smooth round rocks mostly dark and light gray. Mossy green trees dripping, curling ferns taking a drink, and that recognizable smell of green grass and wet soil.

I most enjoy watching the Black Bird's bathing in pools of rain. They seem so care free and content in the wet weather. This also is very helpful for my daily outlook and overall attitude. Keeping things simple, and putting everything in its proper prospective helps me cope, and stay very positive mentally, emotionally and spiritual.

I'm feeling so grateful in this moment, laying on my bunk in a prison cell, with the freedom to appreciate life and love of my eye sight.

Marshall Byers

Rehabilitating Criminals: It Works, So Long As It Involves You by Jeff aka Ruthie Utnage

Rehabilitation has been on the minds of civilization since the 17th century. Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish gives us a clear picture of how modern rehabilitation was formed. Christian monasteries were experts on discipline for centuries, they knew how to subjugate the body to obey time and regiment so that every minute of every day had a purpose, no time for temptation or immorality.

In America, prisons were introduced in 1819, intended to make the criminal obedient to the Bible and the labor of work as a means of correcting them. It was believed that their parents didn't teach them the bible or how to work properly.

One critic said hundreds of years ago that prisons correcting behavior in this fashion was the same as a doctor having one treatment for every ailment. I thought to myself, you know, he's got a point.

Rehabilitation is just as much about you, the public, as it is about me, the "criminal". This has been the problem with prison correction since their creation, society does not readily accept criminals as rehabilitated, we are treated abnormally after our "punishment".

Even when I do rehabilitate and never commit another crime again I will still be the criminal to society. I will still be the stereotype that MSNBC and other television networks have fed you.

But that is why I write. Read my words carefully:

I. Am. Not. A. Threat.

Did I used to be? Yes. Did I do something wrong? Yes. Was I selfish? Yes! But my final criminal act was the murder of my former self. It's not "once a criminal, always a criminal" I am not constantly battling bad thoughts, I don't have to fight back sexual urges, I don't have to take a time out during conflict so that I don't kill anyone, I don't look at butter knives as weapons or have fantasies of easy money by sticking up old ladies or pinning down joggers in the park. None of those things cross my mind. At all. You know what does cross my mind? Friendship, marriage, work, baking cheesecake, washing actual dishes, helping neighbors, finally wearing a dress in public, hot men!

The truth is, I have been wielded above your heads as a weapon, a dangerous weapon to fear so that you remain fearful of becoming me. As if you needed that to be moral.

I am asking you step outside of your comfort zone for just a few minutes and interact with me, get to know me. You will see regret, insecurity and fear, determination and positivity, love and honor, loyalty and the embracement of change.

I will break your stereotype. Prison hasn't rehabilitated me, we did. Thousands of hours of interaction with people who stepped outside of themselves to nurture what was still good inside me, and me, I've worked my tail off to change, it was hard work! But we did it, thanks to people like you.

I know it is hard to think about. Hard to imagine. After all, if I asked you "what does rehabilitation look like?" The general response is usually "walk the walk." Well, show me that runway, because I'm walking the, right now.
All I am asking is that you, yes you, hit me up. Get to know me a little and if I disappoint you by not being genuine, not being real...check me. Help be part of a success story.

I hope to hear from you. You can contact me directly at:

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With Love
Jeff aka Ruthie Utnage

Friday, December 28, 2018

She Manages to Manage... by Rory Andes

Life inside a prison comes without any amenities, nor should it have any. By the legislative intent for the state of Washington, people are sent to prison as punishment. With this particular brand of punishment, we are also challenged to find ways to live resourcefully. Its been said that if necessity is the mother of invention, prison is surely it's bastard father... Now imagine the painstaking task of self expression and personal management as a trans woman in a shit hole like this. She must be good at managing her resources.

My cellmate, a transgendered woman, has long, pretty hair. Its very dark, somewhat thick, and has faint silver streaks I'm sure she gets a little self conscience of (although, it really speaks to her distinguished nature). It has a tendency to look a bit dry sometimes, so I can only assume it feels that way from time to time. It falls with subtle waves, usually held in an impeccable ponytail and by the time she leaves the cell, she looks like she means business in tackling her day. Her hair is very business professional pulled up. She ensures its been undeniably prepared and she doesn't leave the house unless its perfect. She doesn't do it out of vanity, she does it out of self discipline. She manages it. She manages her life very well, too.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to observe how she makes the product that gives her the distinct look of a professional woman, the product that battles the dryness, and let me tell you... its a production she is clearly the manager of. She has a recipe that involves Vaseline, cheap conditioner, lotion and oil. She uses theses items because it is all she has and she has limited access to them. She doesn't have the opportunity to visit a salon or browse online for the best suited products. She can't stroll the haircare isle reading labels. However frustrating it might be for her, her ingenuity quenches her necessity. She manages her resources well.

She specifically states, as she begins the process of heating this concoction, that she doesn't like having to do this but she knows its effective in managing her semi-thick hair. The items are whipped together in a bowl set inside a steam bath produced by a small water heating carafe. All the items are measured not by specific amounts, but by tried and proven estimates. A bit of this, a bit of that. Much like women of the ages have made time honored recipes. She makes a hair product. She makes one that works for her needs, her hair. She manages her beautiful hair by managing her processes. She's a professional and a reformist who makes do with what she has and doesn't complain. She's here for punishment, but for her need to be both a woman and a responsible citizen, she clearly manages to manage... and its an awe inspiring thing to witness.

Rory Andes

Strong By Ruth Utnage

Stand strong today,
Because tomorrow depends on it,
Stand strong today,
Because we are worth our effort,
Stand strong,
Just for today,
Stand strong today,
Because though I cannot see you face to face,
We stand strong cheek to cheek.

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With Love
Jeff aka Ruth Utnage

Dad, I Love You by Marshall Byers

Dad, I'm sitting up late in Clallam Bay, this place is filled with so much hate. Waiting for a haircut. I can't wait to see you tomorrow. My god is this really where I have to spend the next fifteen years. The guard yells over the loud speaker, Byers! Haircut!

Walking out of the unit at night is one of the few peaceful things to do, I get to be alone for a minute or two. I walk real slow, eyes closed, imagining I'm free walking the streets. No one but me in the court yard, not even the guards. It brings back memories of a time when mom used to tell me I couldn't leave the yard.

Dad, did you know I used to sneak out that little window. Walking the streets, and kissing girls down at woods creek. I'd stay out all night till the sky turned blue, mom and Paul never even knew.

I miss being young, waiting for you in the living room, looking out the bay windows for you to arrive in your cool white Oldsmobile. I can still hear you yelling with excitement " WooooooH ! Where's my sunny bunny at ", then running up an giving me a huge bear hug and laughing out loud. Dad, you always smelled so good wearing some kind of Cologne, and your car had one of them yummy vanilla dangling scented trees.

Driving me home from the mall and movies we cross the railroad tracks as we drive by the Monroe smoke stack. You tell me things will get better son. Before I get out and shut the door, please can I come stay with you.

Dad, I love you no matter what mom may say about you.

Marshall Byers

Monday, December 24, 2018

Forget New Years Resolution's Let's Do a Vision Board! by Jeff, aka Ruthie Utnage

Hey, I got a challenge for you I created a vision board for 2019. Here's what I got, I'll have to describe it since I cannot send you a picture of it.

First, its very colorful, on an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper, though if I had board stock, it would be on that and much bigger. It's posted next to my sink where I brush my teeth and I can see it every time I enter or leave my cell. I left a few blank spaces in case I decide to add a goal, or vision. The idea is that I will ingrain them so much in my thoughts I will naturally complete them and do the work necessary.

I have on it the following goals for 2019

1. Begin Hormones
2. Get 100k page views for
3. Get its own Facebook and Twitter account
4. Get 1 new visitor (for coming to see me)
5. Complete my Web Development course with a 3.9 GPA or higher
6, Complete the Strategic Relationship Pathway for Toastmasters, (lots of speeches!)
7. Read 25 books
8. Create and maintain an accountability log to document moments of change or impactful moments for me.

My challenge is this, do your own vision boards and put it up somewhere where you see it everyday then send a pic of it!

Up for it?

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With Love
Jeff, aka Ruthie Utnage

Almost There by Marshall Byers

The last few years in prison I've been on auto pilot during the holidays, each year I fight with more and more feelings of apathy, and the rollercoaster of past memories. Can anyone relate? I write daily gratitude notes to myself and others, listen and give helpful feed back, share my pain and successes in class, we even have a decorated fake Christmas tree in our unit day room which is unheard of in other prisons.

My family and friends love and support me tremendously by spending their time with me in the visiting room, phone calls are accepted, and tons of thoughtful Christmas cards come pouring in as well. I am truly blessed even in prison, my deepest regards to you all.

In 30 months I'll be ready to come home and be done with this prison term. I miss my son and daughter, family and freedom more than words can express. The pain of time loss feels like a small car is parked on my chest. My son was only five years old, and my daughter was seven at the time I was sent to prison. Today they are seventeen and nineteen. I can't even imagine how they feel or how deeply they have been affected over the years by my absence, but more importantly my poor choices back then.

After the many years of change and personal transformation, the whole world will be receiving the very best of me. See ya then.

Marshall Byers

Dear Friends and Family, by Rory Andes

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe, stay warm and, most of all, stay the fantastic people that you are. Thank you all for so many things, but mostly thank you for giving me another year of wonderful people in my life. Enjoy the moments together and I hope all of your wishes come true this season...
Best Wishes and Love,

PS. Thank you for everything you do for all of us. You make so many voices matter. And truthfully, you've raised one of our most wonderful gifts, also. Her humility is only matched by her brilliance... Thank you...

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Rehabilitation of Inmates by Jeff (aka Ruth) Utnage

Rehabilitation is one of those topics the public tacitly nods its head to when some
"expert" spews statistics in an audibly legible format. Stats get applied to a whole group of people when it couldn't be further from the truth. Suddenly someone who is completely rehabilitable has stats misappropriated to his or her current state and then experts conclude some nonsense based on information applied elsewhere.

I want so badly to give a recent example that happened to me but it simply isn't smart to do so. I will ask you this, is it possible to conclude my recidivism probability after 4 minutes of someone else talking?

Rehabilitation of inmates is an enigma to experts. To those that need rehabilitation its much simpler, provide a consistently safe place to reflect inward, remove authorities that are bias, provide qualified help and we do the rest.

First, if you walk into a place and you feel threatened you're not contemplating your immoral behavior.
Second, if the body language of those in authority over you is intimidating and mistrusting you will almost always react in a way that seeks to get away from those individuals making trusting dialogue impossible.
Third, overloading the caseloads of psychiatrists and mental health personnel renders it near impossible to give accurate therapeutic care because you cannot possibly consider a lifetime of experiences and likely future behavior of a human being from a one-time 30 minute conversation once a year.

I know that certain crimes are stigmatized as lifelong concerns, like sexually-based offenses. Sex offenders are the acceptable target for society at large to openly despise. This has caused some of the most intensive psychological treatment available, treatment that when someone is involved in requires a great deal of concentration and vulnerability and to be frank, its pretty effective.

The truth is SOME folks aren't going to change whether they are gangsters, drug addicts, thieves, murderers, or rapists. But many do. The change comes from a place self-discovery and inmates can spot someone who is truly changing their lives from a mile away. We know who is dangerous, we know who is definitely going to commit another crime, and we know who has their act together. We know this because we are around one another constantly where the masks shown will eventually fall or fade not for a one time 30 min meeting where the notes of what happened were probably written before we got there to save time.

When you hear someone has been incarcerated, ask them one simple question: How have you changed and what did you do to get there? The answer to this will reveal so much. Genuine change comes from genuine action and belief.

I am not a danger to society or anyone in it, a bag of shortbread cookies on the other that's another story.

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With Love
Jeff (aka Ruth) Utnage

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Looking Out The Window by Marshall Byers

Silent soft and slow comes the morning glow
Birds floating by in the sky
My face pressed against the cold hard prison bars
Arm and hand outstretched
The sun warms my soul
Clouds drifting
The mountains
The tall and endless mountains
Steep, jagged, deep green and full of life
Whisper words, hypnotizing
Days go by
They just keep going by
Fading............fading into the night
Thick fog moves in
Black birds flying home for the night
Prison lights blaze, glare, gleam and glow
You can see them wherever you go
Laying on my bunk staring out the window
Thinking out loud what a beautiful sunset
I am alone but not lonely
My soul is my companion
I can hear the Sky River giggle, lap and trickle
Cotton woods
A summers snow when the wind blows
Days go by
They keep fading into the night
Fields swimming in fog
Birds floating by in the sky
Prison lights blaze, glare, gleam and glow
You can see them wherever you go
Walking down to thee old burnt down train trestle
Gravel and grit under foot
Black tar seeping
Wood soaked swollen
Crazy climbing
Hot dry steel,warn metal rusty
As I sit and listen
Mesmerized by the swift flow
River below
Eyes closed, intoxicating thoughts
Endless thrills.......

Marshall Byers